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Thread: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect against the Dacian falx?

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    Default How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect against the Dacian falx?

    FIRST, A QUICK SUMMARY OF THE ROMAN MANICA

    The Roman manica-syle overlapping plate armor for one's limbs, perhaps inspired by the much older Achaemenid Persian version for cavalry that the Greeks called cheires (and identical armor worn by crupellarii gladiators), was in use by the Roman army from the 1st century AD onwards. Archaeological remains of manica have been found in England, Spain, Austria, and Romania. Roman legionaries are depicted wearing them in stone-carved relief on the Tropaeum Traiani monument (108 AD), Trajan's Column (113 AD), and the Column of Arcadius (401 - 421 AD). The late Roman administrative manuscript Notitia Dignitatum, completed by roughly the 420s AD and listing government offices of both the Eastern and Western halves of the empire, also depicts the manica along with various other pieces of Roman military equipment. In the mid 4th century AD the Roman historian Ammianus Marcellinus describes Roman cataphract cavalry wearing them during a military parade.



    ^Although some modern recreations have it all wrong by showing the plates overlapping downward towards the hand, this one does it right, by having them overlapping upwards towards the shoulder.



    NOW, ON ITS EFFECTIVENESS...

    Just how effective was the manica as worn by either Roman infantry or cavalry? How well did it perform particularly against the vicious hacking and slashing of the two-handed Dacian falx? The two monuments of Trajan's era mentioned above have numerous depictions of Dacians wielding this menacing weapon. Moreover, there are depictions of Roman infantry wearing the manica to protect their arms while being attacked by Dacians wielding falxes. Is there any evidence to show that this armor would have been suitable enough to stop a Roman limb from being hacked into or cut clean off by this powerful weapon? It can cleave through a solid wooden shield pretty damn well:



    How about overlapping bronze or iron plates? Or for that matter a vest of lorica segmentata versus lorica squamata.

    Also, another question: were the earlier Achaemenid and other West Asian varieties of cheira (e.g. Pontic armor) always bronze or copper plates? Or did they also utilize iron like the later Romans did with their own manica? Any archaeological evidence for that? Surely it was also used by the Seleucid and Parthian cataphracts.


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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    I'm pretty sure a falx doesn't go through metal armor, of any sort. Seeing as the metal in both weapon and armor are roughly of the same qualities (alloying and heat treating metals to specialize them for their role was still more than a thousand years away), and the amount of force a human can exert even using the length of a long staff just isn't enough to make iron cut through iron.
    That still leaves us with the issue of blunt force trauma, however, which can be plenty lethal even if the cutting edge never broke the skin. And unless somebody took the time to document themselves slapping some armor and padding onto a pig carcass and whacking them with a falx to see what sort of damage it did, we're short of an answer. My guess is that unless the angle is optimal and falx's user knows what he's doing, the armored man will do fine so long as he was hit in an armored area, but its just a guess.
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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    Quote Originally Posted by Caligula's_Horse View Post
    That still leaves us with the issue of blunt force trauma, however, which can be plenty lethal even if the cutting edge never broke the skin. And unless somebody took the time to document themselves slapping some armor and padding onto a pig carcass and whacking them with a falx to see what sort of damage it did, we're short of an answer.
    Sounds like someone just signed themselves up for a fun drunken backyard experiment.

    Don't worry. I'll bring the body armor, falx, cooler with six packs of beer and the barbecue grill for the pig after we're done beating it. You just gotta bring the dead pig. I know that's a tall order to ask of a Jewish dude, seeing how that sort of thing ain't kosher, but we can also bring chicken and beef burger paddies for the grill.

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    Quote Originally Posted by Caligula's_Horse View Post
    That still leaves us with the issue of blunt force trauma, however, which can be plenty lethal even if the cutting edge never broke the skin.
    It is very difficult to deliver blunt trauma through plates.

    Along with that, we are talking about the arm, meaning that it gives under impact.

    I believe that, considering the relative light weight of the falx(regardless of the weight distribution) made it at least reasonably ineffective against the manica.

    Why would the Romans waste that much resources into supplying them if they weren't effective.

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?



    If you're wearing it like that it's probably not gonna do diddly squat.

    The manica was not designed as a counter to the falx, although it proved useful as one. The fact of the matter is that segmented armor like that will deflect pretty much any blow from a hand-held weapon.

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    Quote Originally Posted by +Marius+ View Post
    It is very difficult to deliver blunt trauma through plates.

    Along with that, we are talking about the arm, meaning that it gives under impact.

    I believe that, considering the relative light weight of the falx(regardless of the weight distribution) made it at least reasonably ineffective against the manica.

    Why would the Romans waste that much resources into supplying them if they weren't effective.
    One possible answer is "for things that aren't a falx". Arrows, spear points, swords, that sort of thing, which even in Dacia were more common than the falx. Or for a scenario best described as "well, the torso's fine, so there's that, but those jagged bits of bone really aren't supposed to stick out of his arm like that". Partial protection is still better than no protection.
    Though personally I also think that the armor would have held against the falx given non-ideal (meaning realistic) conditions; I'm just hesitant to call it a done deal without an actual test.
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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    Quote Originally Posted by +Marius+ View Post
    Why would the Romans waste that much resources into supplying them if they weren't effective.
    It's also worth noting that the manica style plate armor outlived the use of lorica segmentata laminar plate armor for the torso by centuries, given the evidence for its use right up until the collapse of the Western Roman Empire (e.g. the Column of Arcadius). I'm curious, though: are there any Byzantine continuations of the manica?

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    double post, delete (TWC is retarded sometimes and makes you leave the page or stay on it, making a double post)

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    I'm curious, though: are there any Byzantine continuations of the manica?
    Not that I know, they switched to scale and splint, sometimes mail.

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    Quote Originally Posted by +Marius+ View Post
    Not that I know, they switched to scale and splint, sometimes mail.
    Ah! Right. I totally forgot about Byzantine soldiers wearing splint strips (should have remembered that after playing the Komnenian-Kwarezmian submod for M2TW's Stainless Steel ). You can kind of see it here, somewhat obscured from view, but one of these Byzantine soldiers is definitely wearing splint greaves on his forearms.



    Do they overlap like cheires and manica armor, though? Or are they just lined up vertically with no overlap?

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    Last example of Manica found is the Bowes Moor piece dating to roughly 400 AD.

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    Quote Originally Posted by Magister Militum Flavius Aetius View Post
    Last example of Manica found is the Bowes Moor piece dating to roughly 400 AD.
    Nice! Thanks for sharing. The number of finds in England alone are perhaps a testament to the uniformity of Roman arms and armaments, that use of the manica was so widespread and so far away from the original region where the cheires style armor was invented.

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    Quote Originally Posted by Roma_Victrix View Post
    Do they overlap like cheires and manica armor, though? Or are they just lined up vertically with no overlap?
    They do not overlap but are tied/riveted to whatever cloth is underneath(to my understanding).

    As clearly seen here;

    http://i.imgur.com/bm3pxjc.jpg

    http://i.imgur.com/qhyikyz.jpg?1

    They also had various form of braces for lower arm protection;

    http://i.imgur.com/y4G8Xkw.jpg


    The Byzantines for some reason did not prefer mail for torso protection(that is at least my opinion formed from looking at the imagery) like nearly everyone else(in the surrounding area) did.

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect agains the Dacian falx?

    Quote Originally Posted by +Marius+ View Post
    They do not overlap but are tied/riveted to whatever cloth is underneath(to my understanding).

    As clearly seen here;

    http://i.imgur.com/bm3pxjc.jpg

    http://i.imgur.com/qhyikyz.jpg?1

    They also had various form of braces for lower arm protection;

    http://i.imgur.com/y4G8Xkw.jpg


    The Byzantines for some reason did not prefer mail for torso protection(that is at least my opinion formed from looking at the imagery) like nearly everyone else(in the surrounding area) did.
    Strange indeed, but that armor still looks badass, especially that last pic with the tunic, with everything below the waist and above the knees covered in splint strips. Awesome. Do we know the date of that relief carving there?

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    Default Re: How well did the Roman manica (Greek: cheires) protect against the Dacian falx?

    The Romans preferred hanging lamellar because it was less time consuming to make, but it was more complex. It offered just as effective protection though.

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